With the UK election campaign in full swing and relying heavily on digital media to promote the debates and the candidates, it’s no wonder that speculations have been popping up about the possibility of digitizing the vote. Support for online voting has surged in the UK, rising from just 19 percent of the population in 2005 to 43 percent according to the 2010 Virgin Media Business E-Politics Online Study. If it was offered, would you log on from home on election day and cast your vote online?
The E-Politics Study indicates a possible solution to voter apathy and abysmal turnout rates affecting most modern democracies over the last few decades: appeal to the younger generation by upping the technology. It no doubt seems a bit archaic to the young voter to have to wait in line to submit a flimsy paper ballot filled out with a pencil on election day, when the rest of their day is spent arranging plans instantaneously on their Facebook iPhone application and Tweeting their thoughts to their handful of followers.
While those polled appeared to support voting online, they made the distinction between a computer-mediated vote and a text vote, voicing a resounding “no thanks” to the latter. Without a more indepth questionnaire it is impossible to discern exactly why texting the vote was unappealing (with only about a quarter of respondents for it, and fifteen percent saying that it would deter them from voting, period).
Another interesting, and perhaps unsurprising, finding of this report is that UK citizens want more personal connection with their MPs, especially through email. And while Twitter and Facebook are definitely avenues that politicians can explore to connect to citizens, those surveyed felt that MPs should maintain contact through the more traditional avenues like mail and local media, alongside more speedy and personal responses on email.
Although it is too late for this election, the growing popularity of social media makes it a tempting technology to power local and national elections in the future. If it will combat voter apathy and raise turnout levels, maybe the security concerns voiced by opponents to online voting can be overcome, and participating in democracy made as quick and easy as updating your Facebook status.